[DEBATE] : Jews and power in the US
critical.montages at gmail.com
Sun Feb 15 16:11:02 GMT 2009
On Sun, Feb 15, 2009 at 7:34 AM, Riaz K Tayob <riaz.tayob at gmail.com> wrote:
> Many feel frustration at the overwhelming dominance of the pro-Israel lobby
> and I think that few can be unaffected by the grandiose (and oft true)
> claims of the Zionist media owners and other purveyors of influence. They
> however may represent the "political"/visible majority but do not speak for
> all Jews.We have Jewish people who share anti-Zionist views and I for one
> feel I need to be sensitive to their challenges.
The pro-Israel Lobby is powerful, but it's not all-powerful, and this
fact was demonstrated last year, when the USG changed its tack
regarding Iran. It shows that, when the pro-Israel Lobby's policy
preference conflicts with the rest of the US power elite's
understanding of their self interest, the pro-Israel Lobby loses.
U.S.: Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for "Israel Lobby"
By Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON, Sep 26 (IPS) - In a significant and highly unusual defeat
for the so-called "Israel Lobby", the Democratic leadership of the
House of Representatives has decided to shelve a long-pending, albeit
non-binding, resolution that called for President George W. Bush to
launch what critics called a blockade against Iran.
House Congressional Resolution (HR) 362, whose passage the powerful
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had made its top
legislative priority this year, had been poised to pass virtually by
acclamation last summer.
But an unexpectedly strong lobbying effort by a number of grassroots
Iranian-American, Jewish-American, peace, and church groups
effectively derailed the initiative, although AIPAC and its supporters
said they would try to revive it next year or if Congress returns to
Washington for a "lame-duck" session after the November elections.
Congress, which may still adopt a package of new unilateral economic
sanctions against Iran - some of which the administration has already
imposed - over the weekend, is expected to adjourn over the next
''We'll resubmit it when Congress comes back, and we'll have even more
signatures,'' the resolution's main author, New York Democrat Rep.
Gary Ackerman, told the Washington Times, adding that the resolution
currently has 270 co-sponsors, or some two-thirds of the House's
Still, the decision by the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs
Committee, Rep. Howard Berman, to shelve HR 362 marked an unusual
defeat for AIPAC, according to its critics who charged that the
resolution was designed to lay the groundwork for the Bush
administration or any successor administration to take military action
"This was a joint effort by several groups to really put the focus on
the dangers presented by such a resolution over the opposition of one
of the most powerful lobbies in the country," said Trita Parsi,
president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Among other provisions, the resolution declared that preventing Iran
from acquiring a nuclear weapons capacity was "vital to the national
security interests of the United States" - language that is normally
used to justify military action - and "demand(ed) that the President
initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically
increase the economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran to
verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities..."
Among the means it called for were "prohibiting the export to Iran of
all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection
requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains and cargo
entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement
of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of
Iran's nuclear programme."
Although the resolution's sponsors explicitly denied it - indeed, one
clause stated that "nothing in this resolution shall be construed as
an authorisation of the use of force against Iran" - the resolution's
critics charged that the latter passage could be used to justify a
blockade against Iran, an act of war under international law.
"Ambiguity in the text of the resolution - whether intended by its
drafters or not - has led some to see it as a de-facto approval for a
land, air and sea blockade of Iran, any of which could be considered
an act of war," according to Deborah DeLee, president of Americans for
Peace Now (APN), a Zionist group that has long urged the
administration to engage in direct talks with Tehran and that lobbied
against the resolution.
Two key Democratic congressmen, who had initially co-sponsored the
resolution, Reps. Robert Wexler and Barney Frank, unexpectedly
defected in July, insisting that its language be changed to exclude
any possibility that it could be used to justify war against Iran and
to include new provisions urging Washington to directly engage Tehran.
The resolution was introduced last May, shortly after AIPAC's annual
meeting during which then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
reportedly told the House Democratic leadership, including Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, Berman, and Ackerman that economic sanctions against
Iran had run their course and that stronger action, including a
possible naval quarantine, was needed to increase pressure on Tehran
to halt its nuclear programme.
The meeting also followed talks between Olmert and Bush who, despite
an strongly hawkish speech before Israel's Knesset, privately told his
hosts that Washington would almost certainly not attack on Iranian
nuclear facilities nor give a green light Israel to launch an attack
of its own before he leaves office in January 2009, according to a
recent account by London's Guardian newspaper. The administration
itself never took a position on the resolution.
At the time, the price of oil was skyrocketing, and the military brass
in the Pentagon, increasingly concerned about the deteriorating
situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, was expressing its opposition
to military action against Iran in unusually blunt terms.
Nonetheless, AIPAC pushed hard for adoption of the resolution, even as
it, like its Congressional sponsors, insisted that it was not designed
to justify military action.
Just last week, in a final push for the resolution's passage, AIPAC
drafted a letter that was circulated to House members who had not yet
co-sponsored the resolution. While it denounced as "utter nonsense"
suggestions that the resolution could be used to justify military
action, the text also stressed that Tehran's "pursuit of nuclear
weapons and regional hegemony" posed "real and growing" threats to
"the vital national security interests of the United States".
AIPAC's failure was particularly notable given the presence at the
U.N. General Assembly in New York this week of Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose repeated and predictably provocative
predictions about the demise of Israel and "the American empire" have
been used routinely by AIPAC to rally public and elite opinion against
Tehran and underline the threat it allegedly poses.
In announcing that the resolution has been shelved, Berman said he
shared critics' concerns about the resolution's working and will not
bring it before his committee until his concerns were addressed. "If
Congress is to make a statement of policy, it should encompass a
strategy on how to gain consensus on multilateral sanctions to change
Iran's behaviour,'' his spokesperson told the Times.
*Jim Lobe's blog on U.S. foreign policy, and particularly the
neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, can be read at
Anti-War Movement Successfully Pushes Back Against Military
Confrontation With Iran
By Mark Weisbrot, AlterNet
Posted on July 22, 2008, Printed on February 15, 2009
Who says there's no anti-war movement in the United States? In the
past two months, the anti-war movement has taken on one of the most
powerful lobbying groups in the United States in an important fight.
And so far, the anti-war movement is winning.
Here's the story: On May 22, a bill was introduced into Congress that
effectively called for a blockade of Iran, H. Con. Res. 362. Among
other expressions of hostility, the bill calls for: "prohibiting the
export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent
inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes,
trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran ... " This sounded an
awful lot like it was calling for a blockade, which is an act of war.
A dangerous proposition, especially given all the efforts that the
Bush-Cheney administration has taken to move us closer to a military
confrontation with Iran, the bluster and the threats, and the refusal
to engage in direct talks with the Iranian government. The last thing
we need is for the war party to get encouragement from Congress to
initiate more illegal and extremely dangerous hostilities in the
Persian Gulf. If the bill were to pass, the Bush Administration could
take it as a green light for a blockade. It's hard to imagine the
Iranians passively watching their economy strangled for lack of
gasoline (which they import), without at least firing a few missiles
at the blockaders.
Whereupon all hell could break loose.
By June 20 this bill was zipping through Congress, with 169
co-sponsors, soon to accumulate more than 200 Representatives.
Amazingly, it was projected to appear quickly on the House Suspension
Calendar. This is a special procedure that allows the House of
Representatives to pass non-controversial legislation by a
super-majority. It allows the bill to avoid amendments and other
procedural votes, as well as normal debate. An aide to the Democratic
leadership said the resolution would pass Congress like a "hot knife
Groups opposed to military confrontation with Iran sprang into action,
including Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, the National
Iranian-American Council, the Friends Committee on National
Legislation, Code Pink, and Just Foreign Policy. They generated tens
of thousands of emails, letters, phone calls, and other contacts with
members of Congress and their staff. The first co-sponsor to change
his position on the bill was Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), an
influential member of Congress who chairs the powerful House Financial
Services Committee. He apologized for "not having read [the bill] more
carefully," and pledged that he would not support the bill with the
Then Robert Wexler, (D-FL), peeled off, also stating that he would not
continue to support the bill if the blockade language were not
Most of the major media ignored the controversy, but two newspapers
noticed it. The first was Seattle's Post-Intelligencer, whose
editorial board denounced the resolution on June 24 and asked, "are
supporters of Res. 362 asleep at the wheel, or are they just anxious
to drag us into another illegal war?"
Then on June 27 the editorial board of Newsday published an editorial
calling for a full debate on the bill. Newsday has a large
circulation, and perhaps more importantly, it publishes in the New
York district of Congressman Gary Ackerman -- the lead author of the
H. Con. Res. 362.
Then, earlier this month, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) wrote:
"[Howard] Berman [Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs] has
indicated that he has no intention of moving the bill through his
committee unless the language is first altered to ensure that there is
no possible way it could be construed as authorizing any type of
military action against Iran ... I will withdraw my support for the
bill if this change is not made."
The result, so far: no Congressional endorsement of a blockade against
Iran. A dangerous piece of legislation, primed to pass through the
House without debate, stopped in its tracks by an anti-war movement.
And some Members of Congress are going to be a bit more careful about
doing things that could move the country down the road to another war.
The anti-war movement's victory was all the more impressive given that
the main lobby group promoting H. Con. Res. 362 was AIPAC, the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Although AIPAC does not
represent the opinion of the majority of American Jews, it is one of
the most powerful lobbies in Washington. To get a flavor of how much
influence it has, AIPAC's annual policy meeting in Washington in June
was attended by half of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives,
according to the Washington Post. It's tough to think of another
Washington lobby group that could pull off something like that --
certainly no other organization concerned with foreign policy comes to
Of course, this is just one skirmish in the long battle to end this
current, senseless war in Iraq -- a war that has needlessly claimed
the lives of more than 4000 Americans and, according to the best
scientific estimates, more than a million Iraqis; and to prevent our
leaders from launching another criminally insane war. But it shows
that, even in the rather limited form of democracy as exists in 21st
century America, there is an organized anti-war movement and it has
real power. It doesn't look like the anti-war movement of the last
century, with street demonstrations, nationally known leaders, and
regular expressions of public outrage. (It's not clear that the major
media would give much more attention to the movement or its views --
that is, the views of the majority of the country -- even if it did
pull huge crowds into the streets.)
But it is there, it is organized, it is intelligent and strategic. It
will continue to grow, no matter what happens in November.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director and co-founder of the Center for Economic
and Policy Research. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the
University of Michigan. He is co-author, with Dean Baker, of Social
Security: The Phony Crisis (University of Chicago Press, 2000), and
has written numerous research papers on economic policy. He is also
president of Just Foreign Policy.
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